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Archive for January, 2012

“As when a fish is taken there are two actions, the bait alluring and beguiling the fish with hope of meat. This is like the working of the word which is Christ’s bait; but when He wins us to dryland, then, when the fish is hooked, there is a real action of the fisher, drawing and hauling the fish to land; it leaping and flightering [fluttering] and wrestling while it bleeds with the hook. And this answereth to the Holy Spirit’s powerful hauling and drawing of the soul in all the affections, that the soul feeleth joy, comfort, delight, desire, longing, believing, nibbling, and biting Christ’s bait.”

-Samuel Rutheford (c. 1600 – 1661)

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The following passage is worth its weight in gold.  We would expect nothing less from Thomas Boston.

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In what sense Christ is Saviour of the world.  A saviour is a name of honour, and a name of business. It is an honourable thing to save and help the miserable; to be destined, appointed, and called to that employment: but the honourable post has business annexed to it; it will not do without activity, which success is expected to attend, as in the case of a teacher, physician, and the like. Now, one may be a saviour, even as a teacher or physician, of a society, two ways. (1.) In respect of office, as being called to and invested with the office of saving, teaching, or curing that society. And thus one is saviour, teacher, or physician of that society, before ever he save, teach, or cure any of them. In this respect one may be called an official saviour, teacher, or physician. (2.) In respect of the event and success, as actually and eventually saving, teaching, and healing. As the former ariseth from an appointment put upon such a one; this ariseth from the work he manageth in virtue of that appointment. In this respect one may be called an actual and eventual saviour. Thus it is said, Neb. ix. 27. ”  And, according to thy manifold mercies, thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hands of their enemies. This premised, we say,

1. Our Lord Jesus is the actual and eventual Saviour of the elect only, in whose room and stead only he died upon the cross, according to the eternal compact passed between him and the Father, in the covenant of grace, otherwise called the covenant of redemption; for these are not two, but one and the same covenant. Thus the apostle calls him “the Saviour of the body,” Eph. v. 23. that is, of the elect, who make up the body whereof he was appointed the head from eternity, and in whose name he contracted with the Father in the eternal covenant. And he is their Saviour eventually, as actually saving them, Matth. i. 21.  “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.”  None but these will ever truly employ him as a Saviour, or put their case in his hand : and there are none of them but will certainly employ him sooner or later, Acts xiii. 48. ” As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.” John vi. 37.  “All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.”

2. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the official Saviour, not of the elect only, but of the world of mankind indefinitely; so our text calls him “Saviour of the world.” Agreeably to which, God in Christ is called “the Saviour of all men,” but with a speciality, “the Saviour of them that believe,” 1 Tim. iv. 10.  The matter lies here: like as a prince, out of regard to his subjects’ welfare, gives a commission to a qualified person to be physician to such a society, a regiment, or the like; and the prince’s commission constitutes him physician of that society ; so that though many of them should never employ him, but call other physicians, yet still there is a relation betwixt him and them ; he is their physician by office; any of them all may come to him if they will, and be healed: So God, looking on the ruined world of mankind, has constituted and appointed Jesus Christ his Son Saviour of the world: he has Heaven’s patent for this office; and wheresoever the gospel comes, this his patent is intimated. Hereby a relation is constituted betwixt him and the world of mankind; he is their Saviour, and they the objects of his administration: so that any of them all may come to him, without money or price, and be saved by him as their own Saviour appointed them by the Father.

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The following poem comes from a 19th century Edinburgh periodical, Tait’s Magazine.  It was written during the middle of a controversy over ‘seat rents,’ a traditional way used to finance the ministry and infrastructure of the church.  The author of the poem expresses the sentiments of churchmen like Thomas Chalmers who were mortified at the increasingly bald commercialism of the system, which effectively made church attendance for the poor cost-prohibitive.  The Presbyterian Church of Scotland had always been a church of the people, for the people.  And the poor, above all, ought to have the Gospel preached to them.  Has not God bypassed so many of the monied and of noble blood, in preference for the despised poor?

While the times and circumstances were considerably different from our own, one can certainly discern the thread of religion for profit.  And that evil is as old as the hills.  And is it not the case that the poor are largely left to shift for themselves when it comes to Reformed outreach and church planting (when done at all)?   How un-Presbyterian we Presbyterians can sometimes be!

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THE POOR CHRISTIAN AND THE CHURCH

“How glorious Zion’s courts appear,”
The pious poor man cries:
“Stand back, you knave, you’re in arrears,”
The manager replies.

POOR CHRISTIAN.
“The genius of the Christian code
Is charity, humility;”
MANAGER, (In a rage.)
“I’ve let your pew to ladies, Sir,
Of high respectability.”

POOR CHRISTIAN.
“And am I then debarred the house
Where erst my father pray’d?
Excluded from the hallowed fane
Where my loved mother’s laid?”

MANAGER.
Their seat-rent, Sir, was never due;
The matter to enhance,
As duly as the term came round,
They paid it in advance.”

POOR CHRISTIAN.
“The temple of the living God
Should have an open door,
And Christ’s ambassadors should preach
The Gospel to the poor.”

MANAGER.
“We cannot, Sir, accommodate
The poor in their devotions;
Besides we cordially detest
Such antiquated notions.

“We build our fanes, we deck our pews
For men of wealth and station;
(Yet for a time the thing has proved
A losing speculation.)

“Then table down your cash anon
Ere you come here to pray;
Else you may wander where you will,
And worship where you may.”

POOR CHRISTIAN.
“Then I shall worship in that fane
By God to mankind given;
Whose lamps are the meridian sun,
And all the stars of heaven;

“Whose walls are the cerulean sky,
Whose floor the earth so fair,
Whose dome is vast immensity :—
All nature worships there.”

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As I was on a walk in the woods with my youngest daughter, the path occasionally turned too muddy for her.  Naturally, I picked the curly-headed motor up in my arms, carried her for a ways, and then plopped her down to resume her walk.  Not only was it natural to me, but for her as well.  She wanted to walk as much as she could – and I didn’t want to carry her longer than I had to! 

It occurred to me that benevolence, when natural, helps neither too much nor too little.  It aims to strike a happy medium in burden bearing.  Sometimes it seems like the easy and the most gracious thing to carry someone when they really could be walking.  But in reality, it not only harms them (“use it or lose it”), it also excessively weighs down and so harms the helper.  Carrying when there should be walking is a lose-lose proposition, aside from being just plain wrong.  But alternatively, we must steer clear of a sink-or-swim kind of indifference to others.  We cannot justify heartless unconcern for the suffering under the pretence of promoting independence.

The Apostle Paul said it best in the parallel dictums, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. . . For every man shall bear his own burden” (Gal. 6:2, 5).  Ah, the challenge of intelligent benevolence!

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The following comes from President Edwards’ The Life and Diary of the Rev. David Brainerd (1743).  It in an insightful snapshot of the old Reformed discipline of catechesis and demonstrates how integral it is to evangelism itself. 

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THE method I am taking to instruct the Indians in the principles of our holy religion, are, to preach, or open and improve some particular points of doctrine; to expound particular paragraphs, or sometimes whole chapters, of God’s word to them; to give historical relations from Scripture of the most material and remarkable occurrences relating to the church of God from the beginning; and frequency to catechise them upon the principles of Christianity. The latter of these methods of instructing I manage in a twofold manner. I sometimes catechise systematically, proposing questions agreeable to the Reverend Assembly’s Shorter Catechism.  This I have carried to a considerable length. At other times I catechise upon any important subject that I think difficult to them. Sometimes when I have discoursed upon some particular point, and made it as plain and familiar to them as I can, I then catechise them upon the most material branches of my discourse, to see whether they had a thorough understanding of it. But as I have catechised chiefly in a systematical form, I shall here give some specimen of the method I make use of in it, as well as of the propriety and justness of my people’s answers to the questions proposed to them.

Questions upon the benefits believers receive from Christ at death.

Q. I have shown you, that the children of God receive a great many good things from Christ while they live, now have they any more to receive when they come to die?–A. Yes.

Q. Are the children of God then made perfectly free from sin?–Yes.

Q. Do you think they will never more be troubled with vain, foolish, and wicked thoughts?–A. No, never at all.

Q. Will not they then be like the good angels I have so often told you of?–A. Yes.

Q. And do you call this a great mercy to be freed from all sin?–A. Yes.

Q. Do all God’s children count it so?–A. Yes, all of them.

Q. Do you think this is what they would ask for above all things, if God should say to them, Ask what you will, and it shall be done for you?–A. O yes, be sure, this is what they want.

Q. You say the souls of God’s people at death are made perfectly free from sin, where do they go then?–A. They go and live with Jesus Christ.

Q. Does Christ show them more respect and honour, and make them more happy* than we can possibly think of in this world?-A. Yes.

Q. Do they go immediately to live with Christ in heaven, as soon as their bodies are dead? or do they tarry somewhere else a while?–A. They go immediately to Christ.

Q. Does Christ take any care of the bodies of his people when they are dead, and their souls gone to heaven, or does he forget them?–A. He takes care of them.

These questions were all answered with surprising readiness, and without once missing, as I remember. And in answering several of them which respected deliverance from sin, they were much affected, and melted with the hopes of that happy state.

Questions upon the benefits believers receive from Christ at the resurrection.

Q. You see I have already shown you what good things Christ gives his good people while they live, and when they come to die; now, will he raise their bodies, and the bodies of others, to life again at the last day?–A. Yes, they shall all be raised.

Q. Shall they then have the same bodies they now have?-A. Yes.

Q. Will their bodies then be weak, will they feel cold, hunger, thirst, and weariness, as they now do?–A. No, none of these things.

Q. Will their bodies ever die any more after they are raised to life?–A. No.

Q. Will their souls and bodies be joined together again?–A. Yes.

Q. Will God’s people be more happy then, than they were while their bodies were asleep?–A. Yes.

Q. Will Christ then own these to be his people before all the world?–A. Yes.

Q. But God’s people find so much sin in themselves, that they are often ashamed of themselves, and will not Christ be ashamed to own such for his friends at that day?–A. No, he never will be ashamed of them.

Q. Will Christ then show all the world, that he has put away these people’s sins,† and that he looks upon them as if they had never sinned at all?–A. Yes.

Q. Will he look upon them as if they had never sinned, for the sake of any good things they have done themselves, or for the sake of his righteousness accounted to them as if it was theirs?–A. For the sake of his righteousness counted to them, not for their own goodness.

Q. Will God’s children then be as happy as they can desire to be?–Yes.

Q. The children of God while in this world, can but now and then draw near to him, and they are ready to think they can never have enough of God and Christ, but will they have enough there, as much as they can desire?–A. O yes, enough, enough.

Q. Will the children of God love him then as much as they desire, will they find nothing to hinder their love from going to him?–A. Nothing at all, they shall love him as much as they desire.

Q. Will they never be weary of God and Christ, and the pleasures of heaven, so as we are weary of our friends and enjoyments here, after we have been pleased with them awhile?–A. No, never.

Q. Could God’s people be happy if they knew God loved them, and yet felt at the same time that they could not love and honour him?–A. No, no.

Q. Will this then make God’s people perfectly happy, to love God above all, to honour him continually, and to feel his love to them?–A. Yes.

Q. And will this happiness last for ever?–A. Yes, for ever, for ever.

These questions, like the former, were answered without hesitation or missing, as I remember, in any one instance.

Questions upon the duty which God requires of men.

Q. Has God let us know any thing of his will, or what he would have us to do to please him?–A. Yes.

Q. And does he require us to do his will, and to please him?–A. Yes.

Q. Is it right that God should require this of us, has he any business to command us as a father does his children?–A. Yes.

Q. Why is it right that God should command us to do what he pleases?–A. Because he made us, and gives us all our good things.

Q. Does God require us to do any thing that will hurt us, and take away our comfort and happiness?–A. No.

Q. But God requires sinners to repent and be sorry for their sins, and to have their hearts broken; now, does not this hurt them, and take away their comfort, to be made sorry, and to have their hearts broken?–A. No, it does them good.

Q. Did God teach man his will at first by writing it down in a book, or did he put it into his heart, and teach him without a book what was right?–A. He put it into his heart, and made him know what he should do.

Q. Has God since that time writ down his will in a book?–A. Yes.

Q. Has God written his whole will in his book; has he there told us all that he would have us believe and do?–A. Yes.

Q. What need was there of this book, if God at first put his will into the heart of man, and made him feel what he should do?–A. There was need of it, because we have sinned, and made our hearts blind.

Q. And has God writ down the same things in his book, that he at first put into the heart of man?–A. Yes.

In this manner I endeavour to adapt my instructions to the capacities of my people; although they may perhaps seem strange to others who have never experienced the difficulty of the work. And these I have given an account of, are the methods I am from time to time pursuing, in order to instruct them in the principles of Christianity. And I think I may say, it is my great concern that these instructions be given them in such a manner, that they may not only be doctrinally taught, but duly affected thereby, that divine truths may come to them, “not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost,” and be received “not as the word of man.”

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